School Board meeting presentation outlines decline in Advanced Placement, reading proficiency scores, impact of COVID-19

At the most recent Feb. 7 school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis offered an update on student test scores, participation in Advanced Placement level classes and reading proficiency. 

With declining reading proficiency percentages and test scores, administrators are attempting to tackle these issues while remaining cognizant of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students and families. While these trends have been seen across the nation in response to the pandemic, recent information documents a significant decrease in student test scores at ETHS, specifically for Black and Latinx students. 

According to The Evanston RoundTable, 39 percent fewer Black students took an AP exam last year than in the 2018-2019 school year; the number of Black students who received a passing grade of a three or higher dropped 51 percent in the same time span.  

Additionally, 24 percent fewer Latinx students took an AP exam last year than in the 2018-2019 school year and passing scores decreased by 43 percent. 

While white students saw decreases in performance as well, with enrollment in AP classes and passing scores dropping by 15 percent and 21 percent respectively, this data illustrates a staggering difference in how students of color fared throughout the pandemic compared to their white peers. 

In addition to AP exam scores and enrollment, Bavis offered information regarding what percentage of the freshman and sophomore classes are enrolled in reading support classes, which are taken in addition to a standard English class. While 31 percent of freshmen were enrolled in a reading support class during the 2019-2020 school year, the 2021-2022 school year has seen enrollment in this class increase to 55 percent of the current freshman class. Similarly, 27 percent of sophomores were enrolled in a sophomore reading class during the 2019-2020 school year, but 51 percent of the current sophomore class is enrolled in the same class for the 2021-2022 school year. 

To address this new data, Vice President of the school board Monique Parsons called on the board and ETHS administrators to “eliminate the predictability” of white students’ enrollment and consequential success in AP classes when compared to students of color. So far, much of the concern about student success has been addressed by TeamASAP, a group dedicated to making AP courses more accessible to all ETHS students. 

Additionally, Kiwana Brown, Director of Academic Supports, spoke at the Feb. 7 meeting about the importance of giving all students the tools to improve their reading skills, but especially those who do not currently read at grade level.

It all boils down to this: Students who are reading at grade level historically continue to do so, but we have observed that there’s a widening gap for students who strive to read,” Brown said at the Feb. 7 meeting. “What I plan to do with my team is to help close those gaps in every way that we can.”